New Cervival Cancer Screening Guidelines: No More 'Annual' Pap Smears

But the task of treating her abnormal Pap smears made her aware of her health.

"That was a pivotal moment in my life," she said. "I started doing things better. I started getting into gardening and doing things to calm down."

Dr. Donnica Moore, president of Sapphire Women's Health Group and an obstetrician-gynecologist by training, worried that the new guidelines might keep women who've had a normal Pap smear, or no symptoms, away from the doctor.

"Women may now assume -- incorrectly -- that if they only need a Pap smear every two or three years, then they only need to see their gynecologist every two to three years, and for many of these women, their gynecologist is their primary care physician," said Moore. "Thus, they will not be getting a routine physical, breast exam, blood pressure measurement, and sexually-transmitted infection testing."

Changing Recommendations on Pap Smears

However, Friday's changes aren't the first to affect cervical cancer screenings. Over the years, doctors have scaled back on cervical cancer screening schedules after more research proved less frequent screenings were effective.

"It is about time this occurred," said Dr. Mark Einstein of the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y. "Oftentimes, young women are put into a 'high-risk' category, clinically, because they have a [positive] Pap test that is essentially just a sign of an HPV infection -- but it is not clinically relevant. This leads to anxiety and over-testing."

Dr. Joanna Cain of Brown University agreed, and argued that the HPV vaccine will further decrease the transmission of the virus that is responsible for up to 70 percent of cancers in the coming years.

Below is a timeline of changes to cervical cancer screenings over the years, according to Waxman:

1957 -- The American Cancer Society runs a nationwide campaign for women to get a Pap test every year.

1976 -- Canadian health leaders examine data and recommend a woman get a Pap smear every two years, after a woman has three consecutive normal Pap smears.

1980 -- The American Cancer Society follows Canadian guidelines recommending a woman get a Pap smear every two years after three consecutive normal Pap smears.

1988 -- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends starting screening at 18, or with the onset of sexual activity and getting a Pap test every year. But after three negative Pap tests, women should be screened less often.

2003 -- ACOG guidelines shift from recommending the first Pap smear at age 18 or the onset of intercourse to age 21 or three years after the onset of intercourse.

2008 -- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines shift to recommend adolescents who have a minor abnormality on a Pap test wait to get biopsies and a diagnostic test called a colposcopy.

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